[ im-peer-ee-uh-liz-uhm ]
See synonyms for: imperialismimperialist on

  1. the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

  2. advocacy of imperial or sovereign interests over the interests of the dependent states.

  1. imperial government; rule by an emperor or empress.

  2. an imperial system of government.

  3. British. the policy of so uniting the separate parts of an empire with separate governments as to secure for certain purposes a single state.

Origin of imperialism

First recorded in 1855–60; imperial1 + -ism

Other words from imperialism

  • im·pe·ri·al·ist, noun, adjective
  • im·pe·ri·al·is·tic, adjective
  • im·pe·ri·al·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • non·im·pe·ri·al·is·tic, adjective
  • non·im·pe·ri·al·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • un·im·pe·ri·al·is·tic, adjective

Words Nearby imperialism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use imperialism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for imperialism


/ (ɪmˈpɪərɪəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. the policy or practice of extending a state's rule over other territories

  2. an instance or policy of aggressive behaviour by one state against another

  1. the extension or attempted extension of authority, influence, power, etc, by any person, country, institution, etc: cultural imperialism

  2. a system of imperial government or rule by an emperor

  3. the spirit, character, authority, etc, of an empire

  4. advocacy of or support for any form of imperialism

Derived forms of imperialism

  • imperialist, adjective, noun
  • imperialistic, adjective
  • imperialistically, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for imperialism


Acquisition by a government of other governments or territories, or of economic or cultural power over other nations or territories, often by force. Colonialism is a form of imperialism.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.